• Youth mentors say Aboriginal children need to start with education, knowledge and then behaviour change will happen. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
"Our mobs been dreaming for thousands of years but I think some of our younger people have forgotten to dream.”
Laura Morelli

18 Aug 2017 - 12:15 PM  UPDATED 18 Aug 2017 - 1:00 PM

An Aboriginal program manager says Indigenous youth must have a bigger focus on education and work to help distract them from "other mischief".

His comments come after WA's new police commissioner, Chris Dawson said his top priorities will be addressing high rates of Aboriginal people in custody, youth crime, and methamphetamine use.

Chris Dawson, who takes over from Karl O'Callaghan on September 11, also says he will start his role with a "short, sharp review" of the force.

Indigenous Youth Mobility Pathways Program sees 290 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children guided across the country. Program manager, Jason Gardiner says helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth 'dream again' means more opportunity for education and employment.

“We sit down with them and develop a career pathway; our aim is to help them get an education which can then lead to meaningful work that is sustainable,” he said.

“We teach them independent living skills and social skills which enables them to succeed in life and help them follow their dreams. Our mobs been dreaming for thousands of years but I think some of our younger people have forgotten to dream.”

The Minjerriba man from North Stradbroke island says it’s important to provide youth with positive role models, so the future generation can continue to mentor and empower others.

“I’m Indigenous, my people are the Quandamooka people and I grew up watching a lot of them make the wrong decisions because they didn’t have the guidance they needed. I fortunately got an education which helped me give back to my community.”

Originally from Canada, Fiona McDougall’s aware of the injustices faced by First Nations people. Ms McDougall has always been passionate about pursuing a career in Indigenous affairs and helping the next generation.

"It all starts with education, knowledge and then behaviour change will happen.”

Over the years, her experience working at Clontarf Aboriginal College, teaching literacy and numeracy at prisons and her involvement in the WA health department, delivering funding to remote schools, has enabled her to help guide, mentor and educate Indigenous youth.

“I saw there was a higher Indigenous population in prisons so I decided to talk to youth to get a better understanding of what they wanted to change this and they all agreed positive role models were crucial,” she explained.

Ms McDougall, who also works at the Indigenous youth mobility pathways program, endured a difficult childhood, after being expelled from school for getting pregnant. Despite obstacles, Fiona still managed to complete her masters degree in education and now says her mission is to educate youth. 

“If the kids of today are learning that drug taking or alcohol use is how you deal with crisis, then they have no conflict resolution skills, and dysfunctional coping mechanisms form. It all starts with education, knowledge and then behaviour change will happen.”

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